There was some very fine singing, too. The lynchpin of the performance was Andrew Shore’s ripe and ebullient confidence trickster. As ever with Shore he simply dominates the stage, and one often watches him when he is not at the forefront of the action. Every word of the translation was audible, complete with a never-flagging American accent, and even in the fastest patter every nuance of inflexion was there too. Shore deftly proves that the art of singing English and making it heard is not dead, and that comic-opera can be funny when you experience it first-hand rather than via comedy-sapping surtitles! His contribution to the Barcarolle at the start of Act Two was a particularly funny moment – one which saw Sarah Tynan’s hilarious vocal send-up of a Broadway starlet. She was an engaging and stylish Adina, here the owner of the local diner. Tynan has a bright and light voice, not as free as one would like at the very top of the range where she occasionally sounded a little taxed and perhaps a little more tonal variety is needed to make her character a tad more sympathetic at the end when Adina realises the depth of Nemorino’s commitment to her. She looked great in her costumes.
As the rivals for her hand and affections David Kempster’s Belcore and John Tessier’s Nemorino were nicely contrasted. The tall Kempster dominated the stage and he caught the self-confident swagger, brashness and also the untrustworthy and jealous sides of Belcore well. His singing was notable for having a fine sense of line and agility. John Tessier was a sympathetic Nemorino. His frustration with Adina’s capricious nature was evident, but thankfully he did not overplay the effects of the alcohol. He caught perfectly how the booze can elevate one’s sense of confidence, as when he first encounters Adina after trying the Elixir for the first time and also when Gianetta and the other girls suddenly all seem to find him attractive. In contrast he also managed to evoke how this sense of confidence can be shattered in an instant. The vocal effects were handled with humour. He turned in an ingratiating and restrained ‘Una furtiva lagrima’. The members of the Chorus were on lusty form and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
In the pit there was some excellent playing too – the woodwind made much of their moment in the Prelude, and in general the sprightly string accompaniments kept the musical interest. Just occasionally the lower pitched instruments were allowed too much dominance in the textures but not worrying so – and in general debut conductor Pablo Heras-Casado was unfailingly respectful of his singers and left a good impression, though with experience he may find more variety in the textures and perhaps coax greater spaciousness in passages like Nemorino’s final aria.
All in all though this was a happy evening, notable for the ensemble qualities, but ultimately it is Andrew Shore’s classic Dulcamara that remains most firmly etched on the memory.
- Further performances on 19 & 24 February, and 3, 5, 11, 16 & 23 March at 7.30 p.m., and on 27 February at 6.30
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- English National Opera